Monday, February 27, 2017

'Hillary's America' outstinks 'Batman v Superman' for Worst Picture of 2016


I promised I'd get to the Razzie winners this week at the end of 'Suicide Squad' vs. 'Deadpool' at the Razzies and Oscars.  It's time to keep that promise.  Take it away, Razzies!

Razzie Members from all over the world have cast their votes and the "winners" have been announced for the best of the worst.
The results make me happy.
I expect "Batman v. Superman" will win, but I am rooting for "Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party" instead.  That movie is my pick for worst political movie of the year.
That prediction and hope was for Worst Screenplay, which "Batman v Superman" actually won, making that sentence a successful prediction, but I am very happy that Dinesh D'Souza's attempt at a documentary beat out the one of the worst big-budget superhero flicks of the past year for Worst Picture, as well as D'Souza proving worse as himself than both Ben Affleck's Batman and Henry Cavill's Superman and worse than Zak Snyder as a director.  Finally, the movie's lead actress Becky Turner won Worst Actress for a total of four Razzies, tying "Batman v Superman."

Speaking of the Caped Crusader and Man of Steel, they were judged to be the worst combo in major Hollywood films last year.  It's the fault of the writing, but yes, the two deserved it.  They had really lousy chemistry on screen except when Wonder Woman was present, so she gets the credit.

As for the two remaining awards, allow me to brag.  First, my comments on Jesse Eisenberg being nominated for Worst Supporting Actor as Lex Luthor.
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor was worse than Leto as Joker...My wife and I agreed he wasn't Lex Luthor, who should be colder and more openly calculating, but a more organized version of The Joker who had a goal beyond "watching the world burn."
While I expressed doubts that Eisenberg was worse than the supporting actors in "Zoolander 2," he did deserve the nomination and didn't say he wouldn't win.  I guess the "Zoolander 2" vote was split and Eisenberg's Luthor was that bad.

Next, my observation in 'Superman vs. Batman' buries 'Zootopia' in rubble that I repeated in Razzie nominations confirm my guesses as to worst speculative fiction movies of 2017.
"Dawn of Justice" may end up with the same kind of dubious distinction "Fifty Shades of Grey" earned--nominated for both an Oscar (Special Effects) and at least one Razzie (Worst Reboot/Ripoff/Sequel).
And it won Worst Reboot/Ripoff/Sequel.  I called it a year ago.

Finally, why were these movies considered terrible?  "Batman v Superman" was judged bad because didn't meet expectations, but the audience probably didn't have much in the way of expectations for D'Souza's hack job on Clinton, other than it being a hack job.  While it met those, which was enough to make it the biggest grossing documentary of the past year, it failed to meet every other standard for artistry and veracity.  At least D'Souza showed up to "own his bad," proving he has some sense of humor, but he doesn't seem realize it's not the Hollywood insiders who were voting, it's the fans.  Dude, Hollywood doesn't hate your movie, America hates your movie.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Academy Awards recognize quality and diversity at the movies in 2016


Yesterday I told my readers to "stay tuned for my thoughts on the Oscar nominees" today.  I originally was planning on writing about what a good year 2016 was for good year for speculative fiction as reflected in the fifteen feature-length speculative fiction movies nominated at the Academy Awards, but I'm not feeling it today.  I'll save that discussion for my reflections on the People's Choice Awards winners and the Saturn Award nominees in the light of the Oscar winners and losers.  I think I'll have more insightful comments on the films after tonight's awards.

Instead, I'm going to contrast this year's acting nominees with last year's.  The 2016 nominees for acting prompted me to post Hollywood's diversity issues for MLK Day, while the run-up to this year's Oscars showed much more encouraging trends for recognition and inclusion that I noted in 'Hidden Figures' tops the box office for MLK Day plus diversity among Golden Globes winners and 'Hidden Figures' and 'Fences' had big nights at the SAG Awards.  ABC News reports on the differences between last year's nominees and this year's in Diversity is the winner at the 2017 Oscars.

The nominees at this year's awards show are more culturally and racially diverse than the previous year.
This year's nominees may not be perfect for recognizing both achievement and diversity, but it certainly is a big step in the right direction, and I'm all in favor of this kind of progress.*

As for which of the nominees mentioned above will win, I am outsourcing that to FiveThirtyEight.  The site's algorithm predicts Viola Davis will win for supporting actress, Mahershala Ali for supporting actor, and "O.J.: Made in America" for feature length documentary.  That last one is hardly a positive example of inclusion and diversity, but it is an example nonetheless.  It's also an example of a movie about Hollywood that Hollywood will vote for, which is why "La La Land" is a prohibitive favorite to win best picture.  At least "La La Land" won't be as bad a choice as "Birdman," which won two years ago for the same reason.  I couldn't finish watching it, while I loved "Boyhood."  I expect I'll enjoy "La La Land" almost as much as I did "Arrival" and will enjoy "Hidden Figures."

My long shot pick out of the nominees named in the video is Denzel Washington, who won the SAG Award, to upset Casey Affleck from "Manchester by the Sea."  Other than that, I expect a sweep of the rest of the top categories in which it's nominated for "La La Land."

I'll have more about the Oscar and Razzie winners beginning tomorrow, along with the best political and historical movies and TV shows of 2016 based on awards show nominations and wins later this week.  Stay tuned.

*I'd have preferred Amy Adams for her performance in either "Arrival" or "Nocturnal Animals" be among the nominees, but I can't have everything.  Some things are more important; note that I blogged about diversity today, not speculative fiction.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

'Suicide Squad' vs. 'Deadpool' at the Razzies and Oscars


I already bragged about the Razzie nominations confirming my guesses as to worst speculative fiction movies of 2016, which were "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice," "Gods of Egypt," and  "Independence Day: Resurgence," all of which were nominated for Worst Picture.  However, I also wrote that I wasn't done with the Razzies.
As for the rest of the nominations, Entertainment Weekly has those.  I may get back to them.  In the meantime, the Oscar nominees will be out shortly.  I'll be checking to see if "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" gets an Oscar nomination to go along with its eight Razzie nominations as I also predicted.  Stay tuned.
It turned out that I was wrong, about that prediction; the movie did not get any Oscar nominations.  However, the other big Warner Brothers/DC Comics movie of the year did, as I mentioned yesterday.
Stay tuned for an entry about the Razzies, in which I plan to include a discussion about "Suicide Squad," which is nominated for both an Oscar and two Razzies, as well as earning Margot Robbie awards for best actress in an action film from both the Critics' Choice Awards and People's Choice Awards for her performance as Harley Quinn.  At least the critics and fans agree on something!
I don't which I'd rather say, I was so close, or right idea, wrong movie, so I'll say both.  I'll also say that I agree with Wochit Entertainment's report that many fans think "Deadpool," which is my pick for best Superhero movie of 2016, was robbed.

Fans of Deadpool are not happy with the Oscar snub. The nominations for ther 89th annual Academy Awards were announced on Tuesday. Despite being nominated for Best Motion Picture: Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes and Best Theatrical Motion Picture at the Producers Guild of America Awards, 'Deadpool' failed to garner even one Oscar nomination. Deadpool was a huge success, commercially and critically. Fans are livid that the movie did not get even one nomination. They are even angrier that Suicide Squad, the DC comic book actioner that flopped with critics and fans, was nominated for best make up and hairstyling.
While the Writers Guild Awards nominated "Deadpool" for Best Adapted Screenplay, I guess not enough of the WGA members are Motion Picture Academy voters to put the film's script over the top.  The other problem would be that "Moonlight" was considered an original screenplay for the Writers Guild Awards, while it's considered an Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars.  That alone would keep "Deadpool" out of the category.  As for the Sound Editing and Visual Effects categories, the movie I'd kick out to make room for "Deadpool" would be "Deepwater Horizon," which is ironic because it's a film I recommend to my students.  Oh, well.  At least "Deadpool" has no Razzie nominations and two Critics' Choice Awards, three if one counts the Entertainer of the Year for Ryan Reynolds.  I'm sure it will get its revenge by winning the Saturn Award for Best Comic to Motion Picture Release, where it will handily beat "Suicide Squad," which is also nominated.

As for "Suicide Squad," I'm sure it deserved its nomination for Makeup and Hairstyling, although I think "Star Trek Beyond" was better at it.  It also deserved its nominations for Worst Actor for Jared Leto, who is probably the worst movie Joker ever, although Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger set very high bars for the role, and Worst Screenplay.  The movie was fun, but it was disorganized and one couldn't think about it or it would fall apart.  Fortunately for both Leto and the screenwriters, "Suicide Squad" is unlikely to win either.  Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor was worse than Leto as Joker.  I explain why in the comments to the earlier Razzie entry.
My experience with the Razzies is that the actors are usually the victims of bad writing. That's certainly the case for Ben Affleck, who played a Batman written to be a lot dumber and easier to manipulate than he should be. It didn't help that he was up against a Lex Luthor written to be much loonier than he should be as well. My wife and I agreed he wasn't Lex Luthor, who should be colder and more openly calculating, but a more organized version of The Joker who had a goal beyond "watching the world burn."
That written, I'm not even sure Eisenberg delivered the worst performance among the nominees; that might go to one of the nominees from "Zoolander 2," because nothing is more unfunny than a bad comedy.  Also "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" had even worse plot holes and other writing issues than "Suicide Squad."  I expect "Batman v. Superman" will win, but I am rooting for "Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party" instead.  That movie is my pick for worst political movie of the year.

For the rest of the Razzie nominees, read the list at Entertainment Weekly.  I'll get to the winners next week.  Stay tuned for my thoughts on the Oscar nominees tomorrow.

Friday, February 24, 2017

'Westworld,' 'Stranger Things,' and 'Penny Dreadful' all win Golden Reel Awards, beating 'Game of Thrones'


I noted that the big three speculative fiction television shows,  "Game of Thrones," "Stranger Things," and "Westworld," all lost at the WGA Awards.  However, two of them, "Stranger Things" and "Westworld," along with "Penny Dreadful," one of my other favorites, had a better evening at the Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing.  Time to share before writing about the Razzies tomorrow and the Oscars on Sunday.

"Westworld" was the big winner of the night in the television categories with two awards, TV Long Form - FX / Foley for "The Bicameral Mind" and TV Short Form - FX / Foley for "Trompe L'Oeil."  It beat out "Preacher," the other speculative fiction nominee in the category, "Sherlock," and "War and Peace" for the first award and a raft of shows, including speculative fiction and speculative fiction adjacent series like "American Horror Story: Roanoke," "Black Sails," "Game of Thrones," and "Stranger Things," for the second.  It lost out to "The Night Of" for TV Long Form - Dialogue / ADR along with "Harley and the Davidsons," "Roots," and "Sherlock."  It also lost out on a fourth nomination for TV Short Form - Dialogue / ADR, but I'm going to focus on the winner of that category instead over the jump.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Discovery of seven Earth-like planets announced by NASA


I promised to write about the speculative fiction winners at the Golden Reel Awards for today, but something more important came up.  NASA/JPL announced yesterday NASA & TRAPPIST-1: A Treasure Trove of Planets Found.

Seven Earth-sized planets have been observed by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope around a tiny, nearby, ultra-cool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. Three of these planets are firmly in the habitable zone.

Over 21 days, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope measured the drop in light as each planet passed in front of the star. Spitzer was able to identify a total of seven rocky worlds, including three in the habitable zone, where liquid water might be found.

The video features interviews with Sean Carey, manager of the Spitzer Science Center, Caltech/IPAC; Nikole Lewis, James Webb Space Telescope project scientist, Space Telescope Science Institute; and Michaƫl Gillon, principal investigator, TRAPPIST, University of Liege, Belgium.

The system has been revealed through observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the ground-based TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope) telescope, as well as other ground-based observatories. The system was named for the TRAPPIST telescope.
NASA/JPL followed up with TRAPPIST-1: Weirdest habitable worlds.

A new discovery by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed seven Earth-sized planets around the M dwarf star known as TRAPPIST-1. Three of them lie in what is known as the habitable zone -- where there is the potential for liquid water. It is the largest batch of Earth-sized worlds ever discovered in the habitable zone of a single star. While we don’t know if there is life on the TRAPPIST-1 planets, we do know that any life discovered there would likely be very different from life on Earth. It would have to survive the stormy solar flares of an M dwarf, adapt to a planet that might have extreme temperature swings, and thrive in red and infrared light. All seven worlds are early ambassadors of a new generation of planet-hunting targets that promise a new vision of the word “habitable.”
As much as I like comparing possibly habitable exoplanets to those in Niven's Known Space, such as Plateau or Wunderland, I won't be able to do that for this discovery.  The closest analogue is Gummidgy, which orbits CY Aquarii, a much larger star, which in the real world is much farther away, but in the Known Space universe is apparently much closer.  Either way, none of these worlds is Gummidgy.

That written, these planets are already in science fiction, as CNet reports.
While it's a little unusual for a top scientific journal to publish a work of science fiction, Nature is no stranger to the practice. The journal has regularly published a science fiction column since 2007, and the Trappist-1 planets really beg for the sci-fi treatment. The seven planets tightly circling a dim, ultracool dwarf star are much closer to each other than the planets in our solar system, and at least three of them might be just as habitable as Earth.

"The Trappist-1 system, with its short interplanetary distances, makes space opera possible," writes Suhner, who read the research paper before penning her story. "Traveling from Nuwa to Pangu takes a week. A lilliputian system where worlds are like neighboring countries."

Suhner said collaborating with scientists is essential to her work.

"Integrating advanced research into my texts allows me to talk about science while keeping the sense of wonder and awe intact," she wrote in a Nature blog post about the short story. "This is one of the main advantages of science fiction."
That didn't take long at all.

As for the Oscars and other award shows, stay tuned.  I'll get back to them tomorrow.  I do have my priorities.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

'Arrival' wins for Adapted Screenplay at WGA Awards


The winners were announced at the Writers Guild Awards and they included "Arrival."  Wochit Entertainment has the highlights in Writers Guild of America Award Winners Announced.

The writers for the films "Moonlight" and "Arrival" won the top awards at the Writers Guild of America awards on Sunday. Barry Jenkins and Tarell McCraney won the WGA award for original screenplay award for their film "Moonlight." "Moonlight" is a drama about a young black Miami man's life and struggle to forge an identity. Eric Heisserer won best adapted screenplay for the sci-fi thriller 'Arrival', which is based on a short story by Ted Chaing.
I was rooting for "Arrival," which my wife and I watched on Saturday and really enjoyed as a serious movie about psychology and language, and my hope for the screenplay was rewarded.  Considering the stiff competition, I am pleasantly surprised.  Now on to the Oscars!

Follow over the jump for the rest of the speculative fiction winners.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Falcon 9 first stage landing video


Because of the election and its aftermath, I haven't written much about space and especially SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket since Yuri's Night 2016.  To clear the palate before diving headfirst into entertainment awards for the rest of the week, I'm returning briefly to space with Space.com's video of SpaceX 1st Stage Landing Captured By Drone.  Enjoy!

The Falcon 9 first stage landed on SpaceX’s landing zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida after launching the CRS-10 cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. A drone captured it from a safe distance.
I feel better offering some hope instead of doom.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Resistance for (Not My) Presidents Day


On Presidents Day two years ago, I decided to take a day off from DOOM!
I suppose I could post something about what our current president is doing to either cause, postpone, or prevent collapse, but I'm still not in an "all DOOM all the time" mood.
Instead, I posted a holiday greeting.  Last year, I focused on my favorite candidates for President in each party, who were visiting Michigan.  This year, I've decided to write about what our current President is doing to hasten collapse, but I'll let members of The Resistance explain for me.  Given a choice between covering Trump and The Resistance, I choose The Resistance.

Here is Al Jazeera English's US: Thousands march against Trump ahead of President's Day, which is their summary of last week's A Day without Immigrants.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in the US protesting President Donald Trump and his policies.

Polls show Trump has the lowest approval rating of any president in history at this stage in his term of office.

Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds reports from Los Angeles.
The Inquisitr also covered these rallies and includes notifications of Not My President's Day rallies in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago today.  May they be peaceful and well attended.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Speculative fiction nominees at the Writers Guild Awards include 'Arrival' and 'Deadpool'


I asked my readers if I should blog about speculative fiction nominees for the Writers Guild of America Awards last December, when I posted about the Grammy nominations in music for visual media.  At the time, my readers said no, voting that I should post Reactions to 'Rogue One' from critics and stars instead.  As I noted yesterday, the awards are being presented today, so I'm finally getting around to recognizing the nominees before their nominations turn into either awards or pumpkins.

Although movies are usually considered to be the more prestigeous art form and as such are listed first by associations that recognize achievement in both film and television, there are only three awards being given out for movies, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, and Documentary Screenplay.  Both of the speculative fiction nominees are being recognized for Adapted Screenplay, "Arrival" and "Deadpool."  I've seen both of these movies and both deserve their nominations, although "Deadpool" is a bit of a surprise.*  I'm rooting for "Arrival," which my wife and I watched last night and really enjoyed as a serious movie about psychology and language.  However, I wouldn't be surprised if it loses to any of the rest of the field, particularly "Fences" and "Hidden Figures."  I would be O.K. if "Hidden Figures" won instead, as it's also about space.

Follow over the jump for the speculative fiction nominees in television, new media, and video games.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Driving update for February 2017: Pearl


It was only 42 days ago that I posted Driving update for January 2017: Pearl, but it's time for another driving update as Pearl the Prius rolled over another 1,000 miles to reach 32,000 miles at the end of the day on Thursday.  It took 41 days for that to happen between January 6th and February 16th, which translates to an average of 24.39 miles per day and 743.9 miles per month, returning me to the 24.39 miles/day and 743.90 miles/standard month I drove during October and early November of last year.  That's a lot more than the 16.95 miles per day or 516.95 miles per standard month I drove from November to early January.

Back then, I used the excuse of volunteering for the election, canvassing for candidates and dropping off lawn signs, along with my normal driving to meetings and classes.  I'm not doing election work now, other than going to the county Democratic convention, so it must be the errands I'm running in addition to my driving to work.  Because my wife's car has added less than 300 miles since the last update (I'm still on track to post another update on Pearl before I write one for Dez), it's probably the errands.

I expect my mileage will be less at the next update, as I'll be off the last week of February/first week of March and not driving to work.  In addition, the weather is warming up, with near record temperatures beginning today and continuing through the week, as WXYZ reports in WARMTH STARTS TOMORROW.


That's the kind of weather that will induce me to walk some of those errands instead of driving them, which is better for both the planet's health and mine.

Stay tuned for the Sunday entertainment feature.  Right now, I'm planning on writing about the Writers Guild of America Awards nominees.  The winners will be presented on Sunday.